By Paul Mulvey (The Age)
December 10, 2012
The cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Jewish community is endemic and driven by intimidating leaders who downplay the issue, an inquiry has heard.
Manny Waks is the only victim of sexual abuse at a Jewish school to go public with his experience but says he represented many others who have spoken to him and gone anonymously to police when he gave evidence at Victoria's parliamentary inquiry on Monday.
Mr Waks says he knows of two pedophiles still "roaming in the community", another who has gone to Israel where he's receiving psychiatric treatment and a possible link between abuse and a suicide.
He also spoke of a victim's family who have been forced out of Melbourne because of the pressure placed on them by rabbis, while the offender has recently held a senior position in the Jewish community.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the level of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community and the appalling way in which it has been mishandled, including through credible allegations of ongoing cover-ups, may be described as being nothing short of endemic," Mr Waks told the inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations.
While there are two cases currently before the courts involving the Jewish community, he says recent discussions with other victims have revealed ongoing abuse.
While police are aware of most of the allegations, he says Jewish authorities "attempted to cover up these crimes against innocent children."
Mr Waks, who was sexually abused by two trusted mentors at Melbourne's Yeshivah College 20 years ago, says he's the only victim to have gone public so far because others feel intimidated by the leadership of the small Jewish community.
He told the inquiry one former Yeshivah student rang him to tell of his own abuse and was stunned Mr Waks had gone public. "This just doesn't get spoken about," he told Mr Waks.
But many alleged victims have told him of recent cases, including that of a 36-year-old man alleged to have sexually abused children within the Yeshivah community who fled to Israel as soon as he heard he was under police investigation.
He spoke of a 13-year-old allegedly abused three years ago who has not made a formal statement because he's "concerned with the possible ramifications against him as a result of going to police."
And he also mentioned a member of the Jewish community who was last year convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault against minors and is apparently the youngest person ever on the Sex Offenders Register in Victoria.
"The peak body of the Australian Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), has done everything it can to try to downplay this scandal," he said.
He said the ECAJ does not regard sexual abuse as a pressing issue and made no mention of it at its Annual General Meeting last month.
He said students were vulnerable when exposed to influential religious leaders at events such as bar mitzvah classes and recalled his days as a teenager at the communal ritual bath.
"I'd go every morning before prayers. It used to be a free for all, there was no supervision, adults and kids together, everyone was naked," he said.
Mr Waks' father Zephaniah Waks also appeared at the inquiry on Monday but his evidence was suppressed.